Harvard basketball moving on without 2 top players
It wasn’t long ago when Harvard was orchestrating one of its
best basketball seasons.
There was a conference title. There was the first NCAA
tournament appearance in 66 years.
The Ivy League university was even part of an NBA sensation when
former Crimson guard Jeremy Lin emerged from obscurity to star for
a short time as the point guard for the New York Knicks.
What’s more, coach Tommy Amaker heard indirectly from President
Obama before Harvard’s first-round game against Vanderbilt.
Indeed, the times were good.
”There was a message that we received from someone who did
speak to him that he wanted us to know that he did not pick us in
his pool,” Amaker said Tuesday. ”He picked Vanderbilt, but he
wanted us to know privately that he hoped that we were the team to
bust his bracket.”
Harvard didn’t, losing 79-70 and ending its season at 26-5.
And now Amaker is dealing with other losses. His two top
experienced players are off the team in the wake of an
investigation into an academic cheating scandal and a new season is
”There’s not always going to be things that are going to be 75
degrees and sunny outside,” said Amaker, who appears to be taking
the setback in stride. ”There’ll be a cloudy day. There might be a
rainy day. And there might be a storm. But that’s the real world we
Kyle Casey led Harvard last season in scoring at 11.4 points per
game. Brandyn Curry topped the team with an average of 4.9 assists.
Both started all 31 games as juniors.
Now they’re gone.
Amaker said he wasn’t allowed to comment on whether they had
withdrawn from the school. But last month, Sports Illustrated
reported on its web site that Casey decided to withdraw rather than
endanger his eligibility, and the Boston Herald reported that Curry
also had decided to take a year off. Both could return next
Harvard has said it was investigating similarities in the
answers that more than 100 students submitted on an open-book,
take-home final. Federal privacy laws prohibit the school from
identifying the students or even the class, but published reports
have said the class is an upper-level government class called
”Introduction to Congress,” and that several of the students are
Casey and Curry have been replaced as co-captains by guards
Christian Webster, one of the two remaining seniors, and junior
”Whether they have the `C’ next to their name (or not), we feel
like they were going to be leaders on our team, in our program,”
Amaker said. ”It’s something that I’m sure that they’ll probably
try to do a little bit more of in terms of leadership roles.”
With Curry gone, highly touted freshman Siyani Chambers is
expected to play more than Amaker had anticipated.
”Does it seem like things could be sped up a little bit? Maybe
so,” Amaker said. ”But we were thinking that he was going to
contribute for us, no matter what, as a freshman.”
But what about the departure of four players who started all 31
games last year? Besides Casey and Curry, Keith Wright and Oliver
McNally are gone after finishing their senior season.
”I may have to do more leading” than normal, said Amaker, who
played for Mike Krzyzewski at Duke, and took Seton Hall to the NCAA
tournament in his first job as a head coach. ”I always remember
Coach K always talking about it years ago, and I’m sure he still
does it, that as a head coach you have to learn to give a team what
”That’s something I’ve always thought of going into each year
and that may require more from me in that regard, or maybe less. I
don’t know. But it’s that time of year where you’re excited to try
to find out.”
He also said he expects his players to have ”laser-like focus”
and not be distracted by the scandal.
The season opener against MIT Nov. 9 is still a month away.
Harvard has some tough non-conference matchups against Connecticut,
Saint Joseph’s, California, Saint Mary’s and Memphis. Winning them
will be much harder now than it was before Casey and Curry left the
But Amaker said he doesn’t concern himself with diminished
outside expectations for his team’s success.
”For us to maintain our standards (as a team and university)
will be the most important thing that we can do,” he said. ”We’ll
feel good about ourselves as long as we live up to (that).
”We value teaching, leading and serving at our school and those
aren’t just going to be in moments of `rah, rah, rah.’ No great
organization or institution is ever going to just be associated
with moments of where everything is great. So this is a
wide-ranging situation that our entire community and university is
”So, I think we’re encouraged by a lot of folks to do what’s
right, and that’s what we’re always going to do at Harvard.”